ACCAN recently provided a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications on the Optus Network Outage (the Outage) occurring on 8 November.

As with all mass outage events, the Outage on Wednesday 8 November caused significant disruption across Australia. It inconvenienced customers, closed businesses, and disrupted access to essential services. In ACCAN’s view the Outage highlighted systemic issues that require renewed attention.

While there is significant policy work underway to address network reliability issues, the Outage raises the question of what reliability settings are appropriate, in an environment of widespread uptake of and reliance on connectivity. Answering this question requires consideration of the social and economic costs of disconnection, which should inform policy decisions with respect to reliability frameworks.

In the context of this inquiry, ACCAN considers that focus should therefore be placed on:

  • Immediate efforts to explore innovative ways to enhance Triple Zero services in order to guarantee all Australians, including those using the National Relay Service, access to emergency services despite telecommunications outages.
  • Clear communications guidelines for telecommunications companies to follow in response to unplanned outages.
  • Continued collaboration between government, industry, and civil society organisations to promote the reliability and security of telecommunications infrastructure.
  • Clear articulation of the economic and social consequences of service disruptions to inform government policy settings with respect to reliability.
  • Any resultant reforms should impart no further costs onto Australian consumers.

Many Australians, particularly those living in regional, rural, and remote areas, or on lower incomes, regularly struggle to access communications services, and by extension the increasing number of technologically enabled services. In considering the appropriate response to the Outage of Wednesday 8 November, it is imperative to develop policy that ensures all Australians are served by secure, reliable, and accessible telecommunications infrastructure.

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